Foer's Folly Finally Falls Flat

Rick Moran
It took four months of dodging, ducking, bobbing, and weaving, but bloggers have finally pinned Franklin Foer and The New Republic to the mat.

Yesterday afternoon, Foer's online edition of the magazine published a long, self-pitying, highly defensive screed about the Scott Beauchamp articles that accused American soldiers of casual atrocities in Iraq in which the Editor of
The New Republic admitted the magazine would no longer stand behind or vouch for their accuracy:

When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
It took Foer 12,000 words to admit to his own incompetence and the incompetence of his staff.  He seems almost dazed by the onslaught that was hurled against him and he is genuinely at a loss as to how things worked out the way they did. He blames bloggers. He blames Beauchamp to some extent. He blames his staff. He blames the war. He blames the military.

But to me, he appears incapable of the kind of introspection that would lay the finger of blame directly and solely where it belongs; on his own, perplexed and bewildered head.

Among the most egregious mistakes made in vetting Beauchamp's stories was the disclosure regarding the writer's wife and her role in "fact checking" his articles. Shockingly, Foer didn't recognize the conflict of interest at the time but promised such a thing would never happen again.

The military had already investigated Beauchamp's stories and found no evidence any of the incidents he described occurred. The New Republic insisted in carrying out is own "investigation" which seems to have been something of a smokescreen and delaying tactic - a hope that the entire incident would just go away.

It didn't thanks to bloggers like
Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee who still finds unanswered questions about the affair despite the length of Foer's apologia:

As editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer allowed Scott Thomas Beauchamp to publish three stories that were not competently fact-checked. At least one of those that was assigned to his wife to fact-check even though that was a clear conflict of interest. All three of those stories—not just”ShockTroops”— had significant “red flags” in them. These red flags range from the changing of a tire of a vehicle equipped with run-flat tires in “War Bonds,” to several obvious and easily verifiable untrue statements, including the claim of a discovery of a kind of ammunition that do not exist, and absurd evidence for allegations of murder “Dead of Night” that could have been (and were) debunked in less than 30 seconds with a simple Google search.

The bottom line is that the Scott Beauchamp debacle was a test of editorial character for The New Republic under Franklin Foer’s leadership. For over four months, the magazine has answered that challenge by hiding behind anonymous sources, making personal attacks against critics, asserting a a massive conspiracy against them, while covering up conflicting testimony and refusing to answer the hard questions.
We probably haven't heard the last of this story. And the fallout from the affair may yet claim Foer's job at TNR. But once again, it demonstrates the enormous power of the blogosphere to hold the media accountable for what they print and say.
It took four months of dodging, ducking, bobbing, and weaving, but bloggers have finally pinned Franklin Foer and The New Republic to the mat.

Yesterday afternoon, Foer's online edition of the magazine published a long, self-pitying, highly defensive screed about the Scott Beauchamp articles that accused American soldiers of casual atrocities in Iraq in which the Editor of
The New Republic admitted the magazine would no longer stand behind or vouch for their accuracy:

When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
It took Foer 12,000 words to admit to his own incompetence and the incompetence of his staff.  He seems almost dazed by the onslaught that was hurled against him and he is genuinely at a loss as to how things worked out the way they did. He blames bloggers. He blames Beauchamp to some extent. He blames his staff. He blames the war. He blames the military.

But to me, he appears incapable of the kind of introspection that would lay the finger of blame directly and solely where it belongs; on his own, perplexed and bewildered head.

Among the most egregious mistakes made in vetting Beauchamp's stories was the disclosure regarding the writer's wife and her role in "fact checking" his articles. Shockingly, Foer didn't recognize the conflict of interest at the time but promised such a thing would never happen again.

The military had already investigated Beauchamp's stories and found no evidence any of the incidents he described occurred. The New Republic insisted in carrying out is own "investigation" which seems to have been something of a smokescreen and delaying tactic - a hope that the entire incident would just go away.

It didn't thanks to bloggers like
Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee who still finds unanswered questions about the affair despite the length of Foer's apologia:

As editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer allowed Scott Thomas Beauchamp to publish three stories that were not competently fact-checked. At least one of those that was assigned to his wife to fact-check even though that was a clear conflict of interest. All three of those stories—not just”ShockTroops”— had significant “red flags” in them. These red flags range from the changing of a tire of a vehicle equipped with run-flat tires in “War Bonds,” to several obvious and easily verifiable untrue statements, including the claim of a discovery of a kind of ammunition that do not exist, and absurd evidence for allegations of murder “Dead of Night” that could have been (and were) debunked in less than 30 seconds with a simple Google search.

The bottom line is that the Scott Beauchamp debacle was a test of editorial character for The New Republic under Franklin Foer’s leadership. For over four months, the magazine has answered that challenge by hiding behind anonymous sources, making personal attacks against critics, asserting a a massive conspiracy against them, while covering up conflicting testimony and refusing to answer the hard questions.
We probably haven't heard the last of this story. And the fallout from the affair may yet claim Foer's job at TNR. But once again, it demonstrates the enormous power of the blogosphere to hold the media accountable for what they print and say.